MerleFest, presented by Window World and slated for April 23-26, will host artist Joan Osborne as special guest lead vocalist for this year’s Hillside Album Hour. The Hillside Album Hour – where a revered or iconic album is performed live from start to finish – has become one of the most anticipated regular performances at the yearly festival. Festival favorite The Waybacks will be producing the Saturday afternoon event at the Hillside Stage for the eighth consecutive year and are excited about their upcoming Album Hour reunion with Osborne.
“I can’t talk about Joan without gushing a little – everyone in the band is a long-time fan,” says The Waybacks’ lead guitarist and vocalist, James Nash. “She brings so many influences to the table: deep currents of Appalachia alongside gin-soaked blues, soul, all kinds of rock. A perfect match for a mixed- up band like The Waybacks! We’ve got a little history going with collaborations at MerleFest, as well as symphonic productions in Chattanooga and Philadelphia, and it’s such a thrill to be back on the Hillside together again.”
An annual homecoming of musicians and music fans, MerleFest will once again take place on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. The full MerleFest 2015 lineup is viewable at www.MerleFest.org/lineup.
Widely known for her mega-hit, “One of Us,” singer/songwriter Osborne delivers soulful R&B, rock sounds and folk sounds. She has connected with a large and loyal fanbase, which grew significantly after Osborne toured as part of the 1997 edition of Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair tour. Osborne also received numerous Grammy nominations in both 1996 and 1997. She is currently a member of Trigger Hippy, composed of Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman, session guitarist Tom Bukovac, singer Joan Osborne, singer/songwriter and Black Crowes guitarist Jackie Greene and bassist Nick Govrik. Trigger Hippy released its self-titled debut album in September.
As is the tradition for the Hillside Album Hour, the album being performed is a closely guarded secret until the show begins. Over the years, the HAH has showcased the albums “Led Zeppelin II;” The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers;” The Beatles’ “Abbey Road;” “Eat A Peach” by The Allman Brothers Band; “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix; “Before the Flood,” the classic 1974 live double album from Bob Dylan and The Band; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s landmark 1970 album “Déjà Vu.” Osborne was the special guest lead vocalist for HAH 2011’s “Eat A Peach” performance; The Waybacks have also recruited the talents of such artists as Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Susan Tedeschi, Mike Farris, Sam Bush, Rob Ickes, John Cowan, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale and many others.
The band has stated that selecting an album each year is both a fun and challenging process. In an interview last year, Michael Nash, manager of The Waybacks, who helps plan the top secret annual set, said, “Once we do decide on something, we begin to drop hints in regular intervals leading up to the show. As the years have gone by, we’ve found that we’ve had to make those harder and harder, as there are a lot of pretty sharp HAH fans out there. We love how people have taken to the adventure.”
In the coming weeks, The Waybacks will announce additional guests for the Hillside Album Hour, as well as provide clues about this year’s album. Fans can post their guesses or join the discussion at the “2015 Hillside Album Hour Guess-A-Thon” Facebook page.
Tickets for MerleFest 2015 may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. An early bird ticket discount will run through April 22, 2015, in addition to gate pricing.
MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.